I’m re-reading An Actor Prepares and I’m struck with the degree to which Stanislavski–the preeminent master teacher of the art of acting–is in many ways also speaking to writers at the same time.
In this classic text, he carefully illustrates how the actor, in preparing his/her work, must develop a process with an intentional progression, exploring “given circumstances” and playing with the “magic if” among other techniques in such a way as to open the doors of the imagination and tap into the treasure trove of creativity that lies hidden under the surface in the subconscious.
“…Our art teaches us first of all to create consciously and rightly because that will best prepare the way for the blossoming of the subconscious, which is inspiration.”
“Our subconscious power cannot function without its own engineer–our conscious technique.”
And he keeps hammering home this truth as he progresses, all of his lessons famously being described in detail by his student Kostya Nazvanov. Stanislavski, through the voice of the teacher Tortsov, also demands that the actor focus on the backstory of the character being portrayed and the necessity of bringing to life the subtext underlying the actual words, and on and on…
My point is that much of the book reads like a manual for writers as they dive into their pre-draft exploratory work on character and story, much like an actor must do in preparing for a role.
Well worth taking a look.
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I’m the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Our last residency ran January 3-11, 2016 and we are now considering applications (deadline in June 1) for starting the program with our July 2016 residency that runs July 21-31. I’m also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter), a professional script consultant, and the author of The Playwrights Process.